Stereo Review, v57, n8
August, 1992

Sound Recording Reviews: Out of the Cradle

By Ron Givens
Reviewer's Grade: A

"Out of the Cradle" is the best Fleetwood Mac album in years. Sure, it's attributed to Lindsey Buckingham, but listening to it on a really good sound system not only approaches a religious experience but reveals a larger musical truth: Lindsey Buckingham was the pure-pop genius behind the most successful incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, from the "Fleetwood Mac" album to "Tango in the Night."

Of course, Fleetwood Mac wasn't a one-man band. Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie all made important contributions to the group's sophisticated musical mix. But Buckingham gave it its gorgeous, ersatz-symphonic sound, particularly as his magical touch became more dominant in the studio. You can hear the ear-popping similarities between the Mac and his solo sound more clearly than ever in this album, Buckingham's third on his own and his first since leaving Fleetwood Mac. Just as Keith Richards's first solo album, "Talk Is Cheap," proved that his scruffy guitar was the heart of the Rolling Stones, "Out of the Cradle" shows how essential Lindsey Buckingham's glossy-but-edgy arrangements were to the Big Mac attack.

"Don't Look Down" begins this audio showcase with a crisp, pseudo-classical, acoustic-guitar intro that collapses into a tumble of notes before the actual song kicks in with a well-oiled, bossa-flavored beat. Buckingham croons along breezily on the verses and is joined on the choruses by a lush, one-man choir (himself, overdubbed). The effect as the voices break the word "down" into a series of punchy, angelic syllables - "dow-ow-ow-ow" - would do Brian Wilson proud. These vocal gymnastics are a production theme, as Buckingham isn't afraid to process his voice for dramatic effect, squeezing it into a neurotic falsetto in "Wrong" and deepening it into a robotic basso in "This Is the Time." That wizardry is tame, however, compared to what he does with string instruments: Acoustic guitars become metallic, electric guitars go molten, and he plucks something to get the sound of harpsi-chords, balalaikas, bouzoukis, and music boxes.

All of this imagination is harnessed to richly melodic pop tunes that effortlessly unspool with soaring clarity and vivid atmosphere. "Street of Dreams" and "Surrender the Rain," consecutive songs in the middle of the album, are so vividly evocative that they almost become cinematic; no videos needed here, you can make them up in your mind. Buckingham's musical talents are so strong and varied that you almost don't notice that occasionally his lyrics are somewhat lacking - a little platitudinous here, a little new-agey there. But on the subject of basic human feeling - love, heartbreak, loneliness, contentment - his thoughts and sounds merge masterfully. The album's title refers to the Walt Whitman poem "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking." If we're very lucky, Lindsey Buckingham, now out of the Fleetwood Mac cradle, will rock endlessly - and just this well.

Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.